Lenox State Representative William "Shitty" Pignatelli
"Beacon Hill Roll Call: Most Beacon Hill lawmakers take five unpaid furlough days."
By Staff reports, GateHouse News Service, December 7, 2009
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo recently issued a memo requiring all House of Representatives staff and aides to take five unpaid furlough days between Dec. 7, 2009 and the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2010 in order to close the House's operating budget deficit and prevent more layoffs. He noted that this would save an estimated $620,000.
The speaker's office also announced that representatives have the option to participate in the five-day unpaid furlough but under state law cannot be required to do so. A memo noted that “under a constitutional amendment passed by voter referendum legislative salaries are tied to Massachusetts’ median household income and cannot be involuntarily altered.”
The speaker’s memo informed representatives that the deadline to submit the voluntary request to participate in the furlough program was 5 p.m. on Nov. 27. The Treasurer’s office tells Beacon Hill Roll Call that despite this deadline, that office has received and honored late requests made after the deadline. In fact, the treasurer's office says that representatives have always been able to voluntarily choose to take as many unpaid days as they want, without any official furlough program in place, as long as they submit their request before June 30, 2010 - the end of the fiscal year.
As of 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, Beacon Hill Roll Call has learned that 139 of the House's 160 representatives had submitted the necessary paperwork to participate and give up five days of salary. That leaves 21 members who have so far opted not to participate. Democratic representatives account for 20 of the non-participants while only one Republican has chosen not to participate.
The 21 legislators who have chosen not to participate include Reps. Willie Mae Allen (D-Boston), Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow), Ruth Balser (D-Newton), Linda Campbell (D-Methuen), Christine Canavan (D-Brockton), Mark Falzone (D-Saugus), David Flynn (D-Bridgewater), Robert Hargraves (R-Groton), Paul Kujawski (D-Webster), William Lantigua (D-Lawrence), Barbara L'Italien (D-Andover), Robert Nyman (D-Hanover), William Pignatelli (D-Lenox), John Rogers (D-Norwood), Rosemary Sandlin (D-Agawam), Angelo Scaccia (D-Boston), Robert Spellane (D-Worcester), Marie St. Fleur (D-Boston), Harriett Stanley (D-West Newbury), Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield) and Brian Wallace (D-Boston)
DID YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TAKE FIVE UNPAID FURLOUGH DAYS?
“Yes” indicates that the representative voluntarily gave up five days of salary.
“No” indicates that the representative has not voluntarily given up five days of salary.
The number in parentheses indicates how much money the representative gave up.
Representatives receive salaries ranging from $58,237 to $96,440. The total of five days salary is not the same for every representative. It ranges from $1,119 to $1,854. The more the representative earns, the more money he/she is giving up.
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
SOME POSSIBLE 2010 BALLOT QUESTIONS CLEAR NEXT HURDLE - It looks like five proposed citizen-initiated 2010 ballot questions have gathered the 66,593 votes necessary to bring their proposal to the Legislature. These measures include reducing the new 6.25 sales tax to three percent; eliminating the new 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol purchased at package stores; lifting a cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts; limiting carbon dioxide emissions from renewable and alternative energy sources and abolishing the state's 40B housing law that essentially exempts low and moderate income housing developers from local zoning bylaws in communities in which less than ten percent of the housing is deemed affordable by the state.
If a measure is not approved by the Legislature by May 2009, sponsors need another 11,099 signatures by June 18 in order to place the matter on the 2010 ballot for voters to decide.
AUTISM COMMISSION (H 155) - The House approved a new version of a bill creating a special 27-member commission to investigate and study services and support in Massachusetts for individuals with autistic spectrum disorders including Asperger's syndrome and high functioning autism.
JURY DUTY EXEMPTION (H 1444) - The Judiciary Committee is considering legislation exempting from jury duty all sole owners of a business if his or her juror service would require him or her to close the business.
RESTRAINING ORDERS WOULD INCLUDE PETS (H 1319) - The Judiciary Committee's agenda includes legislation that would allow the inclusion of pets in temporary restraining orders. The measure would allow the court to temporarily award the possession of an animal to the victim and to prohibit the abuser from abusing, threatening or taking the pet. Supporters point to cases in which animals are abused or even killed by the abuser in order to threaten the victim.
ELECTRIC CARS (H 698) - The Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a hearing on a bill that would require the state to investigate the cost and feasibility of establishing electric vehicle charging stations to encourage the use of electric cars.
GREEN TAXIS (H 728) - The same committee is considering a measure that would require all taxis to be a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle or to pass certain emission standards. The measure would take effect in 2016 and would also require all cabs to be equipped with a global positioning system (GPS).
EYE EXAM REMINDER (H 2035) - The Public Health Committee's agenda includes a proposal requiring that every pair of over-the-counter reading glasses sold in the Massachusetts include a note encouraging the customer to have an eye exam.
1,000 GREATEST PLACES IN MASSACHUSETTS - The 13-member special commission created to conduct an investigation and study to "identify, catalogue, evaluate and designate the 1,000 great places in the commonwealth" met for the first time. The committee's report is due at the beginning of April.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature's job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.
During the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 4, (2009), the House met for a total of one hour and five minutes while the Senate met for a total of 46 minutes.
Monday, Nov. 30
House, 11:00 a.m. to 11:38 a.m.
Senate, 11:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 1
No House session
No Senate session
Wednesday, Dec. 2
No House session
No Senate session
Thursday, Dec. 3
House, 11:00 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Senate, 11:00 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 4
No House session
No Senate session
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"Newton Rep. Balser among holdouts on House furlough list."
By State House News Service, GateHouse News Service, December 9, 2009
BOSTON — As of noon Wednesday, 144 House lawmakers had filed voluntary five-day furlough requests, although the holdouts included Rep. Ruth Balser, a Newton Democrat, according to State House News Service.
According to Treasurer Timothy Cahill’s office, the 16 who have not filed for unpaid furloughs are: Balser and Reps. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow), Mark Falzone (D-Saugus), William Greene (D-Billerica), Robert Hargraves (R-Groton), Paul Kujawski (D-Webster), William Lantigua (D-Lawrence), Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), former majority leader John Rogers (D-Norwood), Angelo Scaccia (D-Readville), Robert Spellane (D-Worcester), Marie St. Fleur (D-Boston), Harriett Stanley (D-Newbury), Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield), and Brian Wallace (D-South Boston).
The original filing deadline was Nov. 30, but requests have continued to trickle in to the treasurer’s office, with L’Italien adding her name to the list today.
The state Republican Party blasted out a release yesterday listing most of the House members who haven’t put in a request. The release didn’t mention Hargraves, a Republican from Groton, but criticized Democrats, calling on voters to reject the “politics of ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ ” On Nov. 20, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Minority Leader Brad Jones announced the program, saying it would save $620,000. The House furloughs are mandatory for staff, but voluntary for lawmakers. Legislative salaries are tied to Massachusetts' median household income and cannot be involuntarily altered.
Rep. Greene, of Billerica, reportedly upset over the way one of his staffers was laid off last week, withdrew his application for a furlough this week. "I saw the vindictive way he did the layoff, and I took it back," Greene said of his furlough, according to the Lowell Sun. "I'm very upset at what he did. I'm not going to contribute to help keep up DeLeo's bloated payroll in his office."
DeLeo last Friday indicated the elimination of 28 House staff positions and salary reductions would save $1.2 million annually.
"In a minority, Pignatelli opts out of state furloughs"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 16, 2009
LENOX -- William "Smitty" Pignatelli is one of just 11 state representatives in the 160-member House who are not volunteering to take a five-day furlough this fiscal year, saying his decision is a matter of principle for himself and his staff.
In November, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Minority Leader Bradley H. James Jr. ordered representatives' staff members and aides to take five-day furloughs between Dec. 7 and June 30, 2010. In addition, each representative was encouraged to volunteer for his or her own furlough.
The move is expected to save the state $620,000.
But Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat who has a staff of two, said he will not take the unpaid leave because it places an "unfair burden" on some of the state's lowest-paid employees. Instead, he will reimburse his staff for their losses with his own paycheck from the week he could have volunteered to take off.
Pignatelli's five-day net pay would be $1,181.64, a total he said he will use to cover his staff's lost wages.
"It's been handled horribly. These mandatory furloughs for the lowest-paid staff in government is unfair," said Pignatelli, who earns about $61,500 a year. "It's out of the textbook of how to not treat an employee."
Of the 10 other representatives who won't be taking furloughs, none are from Berkshire County.
Legislators cannot be forced to take furloughs. Their salaries are tied to the state's median household income and cannot be involuntarily altered.
While all 40 state senators took furloughs in fiscal 2009, Pignatelli said the same sacrifices aren't being asked of Senate staff members -- some of whom earn more than state representatives' base salaries.
"There's a real disconnect there," Pignatelli said. "To solve our fiscal crisis, we should all share in the burden."
"State campaign contributions set to double"
By Joshua Miller, Boston Globe Staff, December 27, 2014
At the stroke of midnight Jan. 1, Massachusetts politicians can celebrate something besides 2015: their new ability to raise twice as much campaign money from individual donors.
Beginning in the new year, candidates for all municipal, county, and state elected offices — including city council, mayor, the Legislature, and statewide offices such as governor — can raise $1,000 per year from individuals, double the current limit of $500.
The change, part of a multifaceted campaign finance package signed into law this summer, is certain to be a big boon to political pocketbooks. Beyond that, there is dispute about what the increase might mean.
Some specialists believe the increase will simply make campaigns more expensive. Others think it might allow politicians to raise the money they need in less time, and spend their newly free hours with regular voters, building support.
And while the increase could help incumbents, a handful of operatives and analysts say the higher limits could give a boost to challengers looking to take them out. The contribution increase, they say, could allow upstart candidates to raise enough money to mount a viable challenge in cases where they could not at $500 a pop.
Candidacies for any office, from state representative to governor, tend to require a certain minimum amount of money to pay for the basics of a modern campaign. That includes everything from crafting a website to contacting voters — often by US mail in smaller races and through TV ads in larger ones. The new limit could make it easier for some candidates to meet that minimum.
“For people who have lots of connections to upper-middle class donors, the hurdle for running a competitive race gets lower,” said Avi Green, a specialist in elections and voting who works with the Scholars Strategy Network, a nationwide association of professors and researchers.
“If you have access to people who can make larger donations,” challengers can raise the amount of money they need to run a viable campaign in half the time, he said.
While every district is different, a challenger hoping to oust a state senator needs to raise somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 to run a real campaign, operatives of both parties said. Theoretically under the new limits, a challenger could do that with 50 wealthy supporters who each cut a $1,000 check in both years of a two-year election cycle.
But, of course, incumbents will be able to raise twice as much as well. And other analysts are certain that the new limits will further entrench them in a state where elected officials are notoriously difficult to beat.
Many operatives and analysts said current elected officials mulling a bid for higher office, such as governor, down the line, may be able to embrace their ambitions sooner, instead of working for many years, $500 donation by $500 donation, to squirrel away the massive savings needed for a big run.
“It may bring back the ability for people who aren’t independently wealthy to think about running for statewide office who haven’t had 10, 12 years in another office spending time building their campaign war chest,” longtime Democratic consultant Dan Cence said. “This may close the gap between [wealthy] self-funders and those who need to raise the money.”
The current individual yearly donation limit was put into place 20 years ago, when the Legislature moved it down from $1,000 to $500 under pressure from good government groups.
The limit now goes back up to $1,000, as part of the 2014 law that includes provisions strengthening disclosure of donors to super PACs, groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and labor unions.
The change in the individual donation limit won’t apply to federal candidates, those running for the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. Candidates for those offices in every state have the same fund-raising limits, which are adjusted every two-year election cycle for inflation.
For the 2013-14 election cycle, individuals were limited to giving $2,600 per candidate per federal election — $5,200 counting the primary and general elections.
And while doubling the donation limit is significant for nonfederal races in Massachusetts, analysts said the $1,000 limit is not very high in the sweep of 49 other states.
“Compared to other states, ultimately this is a small-potatoes change,” Green said. “Most states have higher limits.”
In Maryland, for instance, the individual limit is $4,000 per candidate per election cycle. In Idaho, it’s $5,000 per election for statewide offices. And a dozen states have no individual contribution limit, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Specialists are split on what Massachusetts’ new limit might mean for how pols spend their time.
“It’s a small lift, but it’s a lift, and it will allow candidates more time meeting voters than dialing for dollars,” said Paul D. Craney, executive director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonprofit which advocates for conservative economic and good government policies.
The $500 limit “required candidates to spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone raising money or in private fund-raisers,” said Stephen Crawford, a longtime Massachusetts Democratic strategist. The higher ceiling “will allow them to spend more time with voters, energizing a grass-roots campaign.”
But Doug Rubin, who served as a top adviser to the gubernatorial campaigns of Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley, said he did not expect the limits to give candidates extra time to spend schmoozing with voters. Just as water fills the space of its vessel, political money will expand to the new limits, he predicted.
“At the end of the day,” Rubin said, “people will raise more money and campaigns will be more expensive.”
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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